I used to love to hate to clean.
Then I loved to clean.
Then I hated to clean.
Then I loved it again.
Some of this could have to do with a pregnancy and nesting cycle in there, but mostly it has to do with my need for purposeful tasks. Throughout the course of my life, I have used housework to various ends. As a child, it was a means to avoid trouble. Later. it became a means to make money. Eventually, cleaning became a nuisance. Others’ messes made mine seem paltry, comparison quietly stealing my wind, as I perused my peers’ clutter.
In the last year, I returned to cleaning as a form of meditative practice, reflective of the inner world I was slowly cleaning, weeding, reorganizing, burning. I have found peace. I have found practice. Much of this is due to the simple fact that clutter causes anxiety. Simply having my home in order allows my mind to be more orderly.
But here is where the two roads diverge.
One road is simple, orderly practice. The other is obsession. I have too often tended towards obsession and run the other way, hiding in abject fear disguised as a half-truth (I worked so hard today. No one will notice anyway. Etc.). Most women have. Few of us run head first into balanced self-assurance. But for the majority of us, running up to the line, staring the monster in the face and retreating home to come up with a better plan, I offer a lesson I learned between the trees.
Balance does not come from stagnation. Balance does not come from erratic movement. Balance comes from coordinated, responsive movement to pressure.
Yesterday, I sat at my favorite oak. As I listened to the wind force the trees sideways, my mind felt kinship in that rocky relationship. Lost in a dream, I suddenly felt the earth shift, pop, beneath me. Startled, I looked up at the creaking limbs, realizing somewhere in the behemoth network beneath, a root had moved to keep my oak aright.
No longer a place a stay, this root’s shift knocked loose my own deeply held misbelief that roots do not move unless transplanted or growing. Suddenly roots became about refuge. Roots became not about remaining but about resilience. I can remain stuck, hiding in my wine bottle and newest Netflix obsession but my roots are withering. When I let the wind knock my limbs sideways, my roots re-assess, re-arrange and adapt. I may lose some leaves in the storm, but they were too weak to survive. I may lose a limb, bump my neighbor, make some creepy-ass noises and in general not be the beauty I am in the calm, however, if my roots are withering, so too am I.
So what is the answer? MOVE! Jump. Shake your hips. Write. Paint. Sing. Stick your toes in the mud. Poor your heart out. What is the worst that could happen?
No. Literally. What is the worst that could happen? Your heart is going to be broken again? You gonna let yourself down again? Does it hurt?
Ok! There! You found a half-truth you have been hiding in a half-lie, forcing you to live a half-life, withering and waiting for a storm that those roots just can’t handle. Take it. Look at it.
What’s the worst that could happen? Bump your neighbor? Make some noises? Loose some leaves? Withering roots, trees and vines are a common theme in mythology and religions for a reason.
Pruning sucks. Cleaning sucks. Most days I would prefer the physical reality of pruning and cleaning to the metaphorical work it requires. So here we are again at the two roads. One road is simple, orderly practice. The other is obsession and abject fear disguised as witty quips of half-truth #TooBlessedToBeStressed! We are blessed AND stressed! My oak tree is steadfast AND movable. The road of simple, orderly practice has room for both. The road of simple, orderly practice requires exposure to the elements, a life outside of our control and the flexibility to live it. This road requires clean cupboards and minds. Not to be cleaned in an obsessive or contradicting fashion, but orderly and simple, swaying in tandems to the needs of your environment and the roots of your heart.
So go clean out your cupboards, but don’t neglect your roots.